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Poster: light into ashes Date: Dec 7, 2011 12:19am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Oct.-Dec 69'

I revisited some of 12/30 and 12/31/69...
12/30 was always kind of a neglected show for me, partly because the sound quality of my tape was pitiful (and even the best copy on the Archive is not too pristine), partly because of the dreadful cuts.
(There's hope, though: according to deadlists the Vault copy is 20 minutes longer.)
The Dark Star is wonderful (if not as spectacular as 1/2/70), and I was swept away in the magical flow of the jams - nonetheless, 12/31 struck me as the better show, more crackling & fun.
The 12/30 Alligator jam, for instance, dissipates very quickly, and they kind of give up at the end; whereas the Alligator jam on 12/31 reaches some very hot moments. (I remember how awestruck I was when I first heard it.) The Eleven also seemed sharper on 12/31, and the show in general more upbeat. (It helps that the sound quality is so much better, too.)
The big jams tend to be pretty loose & laid-back, and often (perhaps due to the mix) become Phil/Jerry duets that remind me of the 1968 Hartbeats shows. (The small-room ambience also lends to this feeling.) This is somewhat "relaxed Dead" compared to the Dead of early '69...

Anyway, if I were to rank this Boston run by preference, it would probably be 12/31 - 12/29 - 12/30. 12/29 has seemed an undersung show of the period to me, filled with highlights & fiery nonstop Garcia solos (for instance in Hard to Handle or Dancing). With some of the intensity of 12/28 and so many raw rockin' jams, 12/29 is more like a 1970 show than late '69.
(If I were to be critical, I'd note that some of the jams are less varied & dynamic than they would become in 1970, as here Garcia seems to tackle every solo the same way with little variation - but you can hear where the jams are headed.)
An earlier post where I talked about 12/29:

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Dec 7, 2011 11:08am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Oct.-Dec 69'

I can't disagree that there is a different feel to this run of shows,maybe a sense of change in the texture and attack on the way the music sounds,the music has a more relaxed feel,less hurried.While there is some fine playing on a lot of the songs over the run,very few sustain it enough throughout the song to produce memorable versions for me.I find bits and pieces of all the songs you mentioned in your revisit to be interesting,but amongst that I find a lot dull and searching playing.I am surprised that you like the 12/30 Dark Star as much as you do,I found the opening jam enjoyable,Jerry has a nice sharp tone and deliberate feel,sort of mournful and that works it way into a Jer/Phil duet of snappy,smooth runs at about 6 minutes,they do the verse and jam around and arrive at about 13:30 with Jer playing some good leads and the band joins in nicely,as that trails off into a series of thematic jams which I found rather dull and unimaginative.My overall feeling about this run and era is that the band is in a rut,looking for a spark.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Dec 7, 2011 8:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Oct.-Dec 69'

For me, there's no dull 1969 Dark Star, and I think the one on 12/30 is mostly excellent - while not blazing new trails, it succeeds in opening a portal to the next dimension. The only place it falters is in the last few minutes - there is no climax; they drift a bit & keep things at a very low boil.
There's a very gentle opening jam which builds nicely up to the verse. Then we get a long & luscious space with chimes tinkling & cymbals crashing. Jerry ends the space with a nice Sputnik section, and they head into a pretty melodic jam after that.
And here, after 16/17 minutes or so, they seem to run out of gas for a bit - they go quiet, and tentatively try out the Feelin' Groovy jam for a bit without much result. They seem to be looking for a path but not finding it. There's a nice pattern right at the end which seems to be heading somewhere - but alas, it cuts right there.
I'd like to think they recovered and found their way to a grand melodic climax; but maybe they just went to the second verse from there. At any rate, despite being very low-key, I still think this is 3/4ths of a great Dark Star.

It also fits the rest of the set in being rather subdued. I kind of wish they'd saved Dark Star til the 31st, when their playing was more spirited - even better, that they'd done it both nights...
Anyway, I always consider Dark Star a show highlight, and particularly so in the second half of '69, when sometimes they'll be bumbling around unable to play anything right, and then somehow pull an entrancing magical Star out of a hat, like a candle in the darkness.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Dec 8, 2011 11:44am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Oct.-Dec 69'

Let me say that even a "dull" Dark Star can be an enjoyable,interesting listen.I just found this one to have no highlight, nothing to point to as memorable passage or idea,not good nor bad.